When John Wesley passed through Conwy in August 1757, Llandudno was ‘off the beaten track’ apart from miners on the Great Orme and a few fishermen. Methodism did not reach there until the next century.
There are three groups of Methodists in Llandudno today. (1) Calvinistic Methodists - also known as The Presbyterian Church of Wales, who opened the first Methodist Chapel - Ebeneser, Bodhyfryd Road, in1814. (2) The Welsh Wesleyan Methodists, who built Caersalem Chapel, Cwlach Street in 1837, and in 1873 Ebeneser in Lloyd Street. (3) The English Wesleyan Methodists, who built a temporary chapel in Lloyd Street in 1861 and opened the present church in Mostyn Street in 1866. The Welsh Wesleyan and the English Wesleyan chapels differ only in the languages in which they worship.
A small group of Wesleyans were worshipping at the Hen Blas about 1804. When the landowner, Meurig Lloyd, discovered this, he threatened the tenant with eviction. George Brookes of Llwyn Helyg, a tenant of Sian Jones, Ty’n y Coed, opened his home to them. In 1833 they moved their meeting place to Erw Goed near Bodafon and Penrhynside. In 1834 Joseph Tamblyn (1811- 1897) a Cornish man born at Gwennap moved to Halkyn, where he became a deeply committed member of the Wesleyan Methodist Church. In 1834 he was appointed the ‘Pitman and Engineer’ at the Great Orme Mine. There being no Wesleyan Methodist Society in Llandudno he walked to worship at Bethel, Tywyn, Deganwy. He was determined that the growing population of Llandudno should have a Wesleyan Methodist Society and invited the Local Preacher John Owen, Gyffin to preach in his home. Soon afterwards the first Wesleyan Methodist Society in Llandudno was formed. The members were Joseph Tamblyn (Class Leader) , his wife and one other person. It was placed on the Llanrwst Circuit plan.
In 1837 the Welsh Wesleyan Methodist Chapel was opened in Cwlach Street on the lower slopes of the Great Orme. It was secured to the Wesleyan Connexion with a debt of £347. The opening service was conducted by Rev. Rowland Hughes (c.1790-1861) of the Liverpool Welsh Circuit, Mr Edmund Evans of Merioneth and Mr Richard Mathias Preese, (1797-1854) Caernarfon (whose son Sir William H Preece was a pioneer in electricity, wireless telegraphy, the telephone and radio).
In 1855 the Llandudno Handbook or Visitors Guide reported that ‘The Welsh Wesleyan Methodists have services in Welsh and English, on the Lord’s Day. It is in contemplation to erect a new chapel for the accommodation of the English.’ An advert in the Watchman and Wesleyan Advertiser in the summers of 1858 and 1859 announced services in English, asking visitors to contact Captains Vivian and Trevithick.
In that year the young probationer minister Edward Crump was stationed in the Carnarvon and Bangor (English) Circuit. When he was told that English language services were being held in Llandudno he went to investigate. He found an English language Class Meeting being led by Captain William Vivian and took it into his pastoral care. On 26th March 1860 he preached at Caersalem in English, put the English Class Meeting at Llandudno on the Carnarvon Circuit Plan and arranged for regular services in English. He also opened a subscription book for a permanent English language Wesleyan Chapel in Llandudno. On 21st August 1860 there was a meeting of ‘ministers and gentlemen’ held in the home of Captain Vivian. The meeting agreed that,“ considering the rising importance of the town of Llandudno, and the number of visitors who resort thither during the summer season, [it] concurs in the desirableness of erecting, with the least possible delay, a suitable Chapel.’ The scheme was supported by the Rev George Scott, Chairman of the Liverpool District. A fund was opened for the scheme with Samuel R. Healey Esq- Liverpool, the Rev Edward Crump - Bangor, Captain William Vivian and Mr James D, Dean Llandudno as ‘receivers of gifts’.
In the summer of 1861 Caersalem Chapel officials offered unsuitable times for the English language services. This prompted an invitation from Job Jones to hold English services in the Semaphore Telegraph Station on the Great Orme’s Head, starting on 2nd June. There was no room big enough for the congregation so adjoining rooms were used which meant that even though many could not see the preacher they could hear him. This new venture made the English speaking Wesleyans living in Llandudno all the more determined to erect a chapel. Three men, James S Cornaby, James D. Dean and Richard C. Tomkinson went to see Mr Williams, the Mostyn Estate Agent, and applied for a plot of land. The Mostyn Estate trustees agreed that land would be made available provided that the chapel to be built cost no less than £2000. This was beyond the resources of this small Wesleyan Society. On the advice of the Rev Edward Crump they went back to the Mostyn Estate trustees and asked for permission to build a temporary chapel which would be replaced by a permanent chapel after three years. This was agreed and land in Lloyd Street was offered, and the contract was signed on 15 July 1861.The building with accommodation for 250 people was opened on 25th August 1861 when the preachers were Rev George Scott, Chairman of the Liverpool District and the Rev Richard Roberts, who in 1885 became the first Welsh speaking President of the Wesleyan Conference. At this time the only services in English during the ‘off season’ were in the English Wesleyan Chapel. The Wesleyan Conference created the Llandudno and Rhyl Circuit and stationed Edward Crump in Llandudno. In 1863 during the summer season a series of special preachers was arranged which included the Rev. Dr Samuel D. Waddy, Dr Benjamin Gregory, Henry Fish and Luke H. Wiseman. The financial success of the series of summer preachers gave impetus to the major scheme to build a large permanent English language Wesleyan Chapel.
In June 1865 the Rev Charles Prest, the Wesleyan Home Missions Connexional Secretary, was a delegate at the Annual North Wales District Meeting in Bangor. He visited the English work in Llandudno and Rhyl, and wrote a letter supporting the work that Frederick Payne was doing to build English language Wesleyan churches in both places. With a grant from Punshon’s Watering Places Fund and many other gifts a freehold site in Mostyn Street was secured. The corner-foundation stone was laid on Friday 6th October 1865, starting in St Georges Hall, at 2pm with a service in Welsh conducted by Rev John Evans of Mold who made an appeal for fund for the new chapel. The foundation stone was then laid by John Farnworth, Esq., J.P, of Liverpool. Unforeseen delays meant that St. John’s was not opened until Thursday 27th September 1866 by the Rev Dr William Morley Punshon.
The chapel was and remains today cruciform in design with a spectacular barrel ceiling. For acoustic reasons the present lower wooded ceiling was installed in 1877. A harmonium accompanied the singing. The transepts were screened off so that they could be used for the Sunday-school. The chapel was a Mission chapel and financially supported by a grant from the Connexion Home Mission Fund. By the summer of 1877 sufficient funds had been raised to purchase an organ. On 10th December 1877 the long-awaited new Sunday School building was opening adjacent to the chapel.
In the early1870’s the trustees of Caersalem Welsh Wesleyan Chapel decided to look for a better site in central Llandudno for a larger and more suitable place of worship. The site of the former temporary English Wesleyan Chapel in Lloyd Street was offered to them by Mostyn Estates. George Felton of the Mostyn Estates was commissioned to design the building. The foundation stone was laid in August 1873 and the chapel, named Ebeneser, was opened with seating for 350 persons on 28th June 1874. In 1900 a housing estate was built in the Warren area of Llandudno. Ebeneser chapel officials opened a Sunday school in a rented room on the estate. This venture was so successful that the Welsh Wesleyan officials built a small chapel in Mowbray Road, West Shore in 1901. The chapel was known at the Warren Mission. The venture was moderately successful but was hampered because there were not many Welsh speakers in the area. In 1913 St John’s English Wesleyan church took over the Mission for a few years. It was then sold to the Salvation Army and later it became the Bethesda Gospel Hall.
In 1905 the Ebeneser Welsh Wesleyan trustees decided to replace the Lloyd Street chapel with a new one on the same site. The new Ebeneser was opened 20th April 1909. When then lease on their chapel in Lloyd Street ran out in 1972 they moved to a former Calvinistic Methodist chapel in Trinity Ave. The Welsh Wesleyans are now a constituent part of the Seilo United Welsh Chapel, Gloddaeth Street, Llandudno
In 1894 a request from the Wesleyan Circuit Local Preachers meeting was made to open another English speaking chapel in the Circuit. Deganwy was suggested but no suitable place was found. In June 1897 St John’s rented the former Baptist Chapel in Queen’s Road, Craig y Don. In 1900 St John’s were asked to buy the property but they decided not to proceed. The Society continued to meet in people’s homes. In 1904 Miss Alice Allday, a member of St John’s Chapel rented a parcel of land on the corner of Queen’s Road and Victoria Street Craig y Don from Mr David Savory and erected a ‘Tin Tabernacle’. In 1905 she gave the ‘Tin Tabernacle’ Mission Church to St John’s with the request that Mr David Savory be the Steward and Class Leader. In 1923 land was bought in Mostyn Avenue and the new church, named St David’s was built. The church was opened by Mrs David Savory on 19th November 1924. In the 1980’s and 1990’s a brick build church hall was added.
Following its centenary in 1966 the future of St. John’s became uncertain. Several schemes were looked at to demolish the building and enter into a commercial development with shops on the ground floor and the church suite on the first floor. This proposal met with opposition both from some members of St John’s Church and from many Llandudno citizens. As a result of the uncertainty the building’s future it was not fully maintained and became increasingly in urgent need of a decision to pull down or restore it. In November 1973 the Trustees accepted a conditional offer from a property development company to demolish the church and build shops. The Aberconwy Borough Council gave outline planning permission on 26 July 1974. The scheme was stopped when on 16 March 1976 a Grade II listing was placed on St John’s English Methodist Church, the boundary wall and railings. The Secretary of State for Wales called a public enquiry which was held on 10th and 11th March 1977. The Secretary of State accepted the report from the evidence given at the enquiry and refused to allow St John’s to be demolished or the listing to be removed. During the whole of the 1980’s St John’s raised money to fully restore the building phase by phase. The work to renovate and remodel the interior of the church started in September 1986 and the church remained closed until the re-opening services on Palm Sunday Morning 12 April 1987. Shortly after this St John’s Church Council agreed to sell to Marks and Spencer Ltd. a 125 year lease on part of the Church grounds. This allowed St John’s to build a church hall, fellowship room and other premises. The new premises were opened on 20th April 1991 by Rt Hon Viscount Tonypandy.